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Analysis of “We Are the Animals” by Justin Torres

Justin Torres debut novel We are the Animals is a rather excellent book, transforming the cruelness of upbringing and life events into an adventurous journey. Such a combination brought the novel popularity amongst contemporary readers, providing an escape from reality. The story is centered on three brothers whose childhood in rural New York seems rather tough due to their neglecting and abusive parents. The following essay will compare and contrast the boys of the book, outlining their main similarities and differences.

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The three brothers Joel, Manny, and the narrator share a close bond and many comparable characters feature: “The magic of God is three. We were the magic of God”, is how they referred to themselves (Torres). Notwithstanding many similarities, they differentiate from each adopting some traits of their parents as they grow up together. Manny and Joel are tough and wild by their nature, unlike the narrator, whose sensitive side is prevalent in his character. Such diversity unites the brothers and helps each of them get through struggles with the help of one another. For instance, Manny turns to the narrator to talk about his feelings or visions of the future as he is more sensitive than the others.

Despite the brothers’ unity caused by the need to stay together to protect themselves physically and mentally from abusive parents, they had a hierarchy in their relationship. Manny is seen to be the dominant brother since Joel is frequently seen to defer to him. The narrator is more of an outcast among the three as he often expresses views opposed to the one’s siblings ave: “All at once they were disgusted and jealous, and deeply protective, and deeply proud” (Torres). An example of such a hierarchy dynamic is depicted when the narrator insults his brother Manny, and Joel is genuinely astounded by his courage to stand up to the brother. Nevertheless, such character imbalance perfectly counterpoises the bond, harmonizing the boys when they are together.

The upbringing in an abusive family shaped the values and views of the brothers in varying ways. The narrator’s more sensitive nature is displayed in his attitude to the mother, where he frequently stays to comfort her after the father’s cruel beatings and depressive episodes. Manny and Joel’s tougher nature, on the other side, has more courage to stand up to Pa, even though all three are afraid of his abusive and unpredictable character. In the conflict with Ma outing the narrator as gay, Joel and Manny restrain Pa from beating the narrator after he threatened the mother for such doing: “Paps lunged, and my brothers, for the first time in their lives, restrained him” (Torres). This episode depicts that brotherly love is above anything for the boys.

The three brothers depict a close bond throughout the toxic and abusive upbringing. Despite the difference in characters, Joel, Manny, and the narrator share most of their values, continually standing up for each other at any given moment. Even though the children are noticed to be mimicking parents’ behavioral models, they have well inside them, as through such hardships, they still manage to remain loving siblings. The undivided brotherly bond is displayed from the first chapters, where the narrator chooses to refer to the three of them as “we”, rather than on the first-person basis as individuals. Therefore, the brothers manage to overcome the toxicity, neglect, and abuse inside the family and survive child trauma by relying on each other.

Work Cited

Torres, Justin. We the Animals. Boston; New York, Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.

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